In yesterday’s post called ‘Truth, Justice, and the American Male Way” I wrote about the severe lack of minority representation in Hollywood as seen in the majority of the Hall H panels at Comic-Con. While small progress has been made for minorities, women, and gays in film, it still is incredibly unbalanced in film and TV. Comic-Con nor Hall H is to blame for this- rather they serve as a magnifying glass for the modus operandi of Hollywood since it’s inception. It’s been an exclusive ‘good ole boys’ club with membership for a minority to be tricky and allusive. Two of my main complaints from yesterday’s posts: First, the lack of a big budgeted female superhero franchise. With all the talent, leadership, and resources, the best we can come up with is Catwoman and Electra?!? My second big complaint is the complete lack of Asian American leading men in Hollywood. Latinos, African Americans, and others sporadically spike in popularity, but we have yet to see a leading Asian male that isn’t a martial artists. It’s all a little maddening. So what is the solution?
The opportunity has never been more ripe for change- but how will we proceed? Becoming a true multi-ethnic Hollywood culture will not come easy and will involve a lot of pain and sacrifice. However, a lot of people both Caucasian and minority don’t see it that way. On first thought, it seems the solution just involves creating a few more key roles then everyone wins right? Well, I don’t think so. Check out this diagram below:
This picture is of three kids trying to watch a baseball game over a fence. In the spirit of ‘equality’ they have all been given the same box to stand on. However, the problem is that they are all not at the same starting point. The tallest kid has much more of an advantage and in many cases doesn’t even need an extra box to enjoy the game. For the kid on the far right, the extra box does next to nothing since he is too short to peer over the fence. This is the best way to describe what has happened in Hollywood in recent years. Yes, there has been advancement but it has largely been in the spirit of equality. The western mindset is everyone gets a fair shot and may the best man (literally) win. While the sentiment is well meaning, a simple box is not going to overcome generations of discrimination that has influenced and shaped our culture- especially in Hollywood. So just giving minorities the same chances as their Caucasian counter parts won’t be enough to overcome the deficit in the Hall H panel line up. So if equality is not the answer, what is?
In above diagram, the boxes have been reallocated. This time, the tallest kid has given his to the shortest kid, allowing him to finally see over the fence. The action has shifted from one of ‘equality’ to one of ‘justice’. The mindset is one of sacrifice in order for another to overcome their natural barriers. If I were to push the illustration further, the act of justice would result in the taller kid not being able to see over the fence at all. This is where the rubber meets the road. I have no doubt that Hollywood is more willing than ever to adopt a mindset of equality, but are they really ready and willing to take a stance of justice for the sake of minorities, women, gays, or the handicapped? Sadly, I fear they are not.
I hope you can see now that while equality sounds like the ideal goal, it still falls way short of what is needed to diversify Hollywood. The token black/female/gay character in an otherwise large homogenous cast won’t be enough to pioneer change. A new culture of leading men and women will only come through sacrifice and pain. It is intentionally saying no to one thing in order to say yes to another- or in other words, justice. Hollywood is not so good at self sacrifice just in case you were wondering. However, money talks. Where ever the money is, Hollywood will be standing up and paying attention. This means supporting the properties that at least point us in the right direction. Last week at Comic-Con, I went to the Entertainment Weekly’s Brave New Warriors panel in Ballroom 20. Several leading men of our most popular shows (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Teen Wolf, Grimm, and The Walking Dead) were their to represent. I was most encouraged by the fanfare that Steven Yeun (Glenn on TWD) received. His role on the show has become significant, not because he’s a martial artist, computer nerd, or can do the Tokyo drift. He’s just a genuine hero that happens to be Asian. In fact, it’s refreshing to see that Michonne, the African American, is the one carrying the samurai sword! Glenn may not be the leading man in TWD but at least he has been given a shot to prove that he can carry the weight of a substantial part in a wildly successful show. The powers that be, could have easily demanded more ‘audience friendly’ casting, but thanks to Robert Kirkman’s vision, Glenn has become a fan favorite.
In conclusion, I know these two posts seem to stray from the Comic-Con focused articles that I usually write. I feel compelled to write on this after Comic-Con because I feel it’s my best way to promote ‘justice’ in an otherwise broken system. Change won’t occur until we evolve past equality and all demand justice for the marginalized. This means someday embracing the fact of a black Superman, Asian Batman, or a Latina Wonder Woman. Until then, it means as we consumers of everything Hall H and the rest of Comic-Con, that we need to be looking for opportunities for justice to prevail. We need to be giving minority artists, writers, actors, dancers, director, and creators more opportunity- or and extra box, then they have ever had before. Isn’t our superhero culture of Comic-Con all about justice anyways? When that day finally arrives, then we will be able to say our heroes truly stand for truth, justice, and the American way.
I hope this post has got you thinking and I would love to hear your thoughts. There were so many great comments from yesterday, let me know what you think and where we need to go.
*The equality and justice diagrams are not mine- I got them off of Google a long time ago but can’t find the creator for credit :)